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Israeli army reportedly allowing deserters to return home for holidays

Israeli soldiers display national flag on top of an armored personnel carrier near the border of Israel and Gaza Strip Wednesday, July 23, 2014
AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov
Those who dodged service will be offered the opportunity to regularize their status with the army

The IDF has apparently offered amnesty to Israeli citizens abroad who did not serve in the army, allowing them to visit the country during the holiday season, the Times of Israel reported Sunday.

As Israel prepares to celebrate the Jewish new year and the beginning of the holiday season, Israeli citizens who left the country in order to avoid serving in the army, or who left the country as children without returning for the draft, will be allowed to visit without risking arrest for desertion. The deserters must leave the country again before the end of October.

Service in the Israeli Defense Forces is mandatory for Israeli citizens. Israeli citizens who left the country at a young age are still required to return for army service unless granted an exemption. Those who fail to return for service risk facing criminal charges upon returning to the country. Thus, many deserters opt not to return home.

The amnesty offer grants peace of mind to those Israeli citizens who want to return to their home country to celebrate the high holidays. During their time in Israel, those who dodged service will also reportedly be offered the opportunity to regularize their status with the army, either by joining the IDF or applying for exemptions.

This is the second time this year the army has made offers of amnesty for deserters. As Israel celebrated its 70th Independence day earlier this April, dozens of Israeli citizens living abroad took advantage of a similar amnesty offer to regularize their army status.

The army is also reportedly offering amnesty to Israelis living in Israel who failed to report for reserve duty. Those who appear before military police before the 31st of October will have any criminal charges waived. The offer does not apply to those who failed to report for emergency call-up of reserve duty (tzav 8).

Reports of the offer of amnesty come as Israelis throughout the country and around the world prepare for the holiday season. On Sunday evening, the month of holidays will officially begin with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

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